We have all seen the heartbreaking scenes of seekers of sanctuary crossing the channel, being pursued by news cameras as if they are animals. Upon landing, they’re greeted by the gruesome sight of Nigel Farage and Conservative MPs speaking about them with contempt – a message amplified by the media. Over the coming decade, this is something which is only going to intensify as the climate crisis will force more people from their homes.
The last nine months have been devastating and demoralising. But stories like this are a reminder of why we need to fight for a strong, liberal presence in this country. Just imagine how different the government’s response to the Coronavirus crisis would have been if there was a larger Liberal Democrat contingent in Parliament.
Over the course of this leadership campaign, I have spoken to countless members across over three hundred local parties. One thing stood out: our activists are feeling dispirited and disenfranchised. Unless we change, our membership will decrease and our ability to win across all levels in next year’s devolved and local elections with it. We have to prove our relevance to more than just the electorate.
There is no greater motivation than success. We saw how our amazing success locally – built off the hard-work of councillors and activists – spurred us forward in 2019. Our membership skyrocketed, we had further success in the European elections and we even led a national poll.
I have a strong record of beating Conservatives – turning a 10,000 Conservative majority into the largest share of the vote in the history of my seat in just four years. But more importantly, I have a plan to replicate this success elsewhere. Much of our target list looks like Oxford West and Abingdon – and to win them we must attract moderate Conservative voters while consolidating the progressive vote.
If we are to succeed, we must change. There have been too many polls that have us at six percent. There are no quick fixes, but steady as we go is not a solution. The issues are too important for our liberal voice to be absent.
To members reading this who feel demotivated: I hear you. After the success of 2019, it can be hard to be a Liberal Democrat right now. If you elect me as your leader, I will fight every day to make you proud to be a Liberal Democrat again. Whether that is putting forward the values we believe in across the media, holding the Tory government to account, or by re-connecting with voters we have lost on the doorstep.
Paddy Ashdown always said our party is best when it is fizzing with ideas. I want to help our party refind that excitement, and transform that into success. Don’t give up on the Liberal Democrats – with me as your leader, the best is yet to come.
Layla Moran is the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon. She tweets @LaylaMoran